The 11 telcos putting the lives of older Australians at risk

Eleven telecommunication companies have been hit with formal warnings.

The 11 telcos failing the vulnerable

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has hit 11 telecommunications companies with formal warnings for failing to tell potential new customers that they do not provide Priority Assistance (PA) services or failing to name a company that does. 

The 11 companies are Activ8me, Aussie Broadband, Dodo, Exetel, Foxtel, MyRepublic, Skymesh, Southern Phone, Spintel, TPG, and V4 Telecom.

PA is a customer status available to anyone diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition who depends on a reliable fixed-line home telephone service to be able to call for help at any time.

PA offers the highest level of service available for telephone connection and fault repairs. Telstra is the only telco required to provide these services as a condition of its licence; others, however, may do so voluntarily.

“Telcos need to give consumers the full picture before signing them up to a service. This includes disclosing whether they offer PA,” said ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.

“If they don’t offer PA, they must tell people who does [offer it].”

The ACMA investigations found the 11 telecommunication companies contravened the Telecommunications Act 1997 by either failing to inform customers they do not offer PA services, failing to name a telco that does, or both.

“We are concerned about any failure to meet obligations that are targeted at helping people in vulnerable circumstances,” said Ms O’Loughlin.

Following the ACMA investigations, the 11 companies have committed to revise their training and scripts to ensure PA information is accurately communicated.

“Telcos are on notice that PA obligations must be taken seriously,” said Ms O’Loughlin.

“Further enforcement action may be taken if the issues re-occur, including directing the telcos to implement effective systems that ensure their PA obligations are being met or commencing civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court.”

Do you or a family member require Priority Assistance from your telecommunication company? Which provider do you use? Was it easy to find the information that you required?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    Ted Wards
    8th May 2019
    Stick with the big companies they offer you the best protection. Sometimes selecting a cheaper option costs more in the long run!

    8th May 2019
    Any Telco that won't provide Priority Assistance should be banned from providing telecommunications.
    8th May 2019
    Yes - like a few other things doing the rounds, it is unacceptable that some do and some don't. I'm fortunate, with my installing a big solar system on the roof at the new home, that there is a non-smart meter... apparently with a smart meter you don't get the same feed-in tariff and there is no valid reason for it.... just common (good word) business practice here these days.... find any loop-hole to not give and to up your shareholder's dividends...
    8th May 2019
    So many issues doing the rounds, that impact on the ordinary person, that it is nigh impossible, without a party, to keep up with them...

    Anyone interested?

    8th May 2019
    My beef is that my current provider, given that the ex and I are moving next week (what WILL you do without me for a day or so?), is that they persist with telling me their speed is around 25+ at its lowest, while it never gets past 11 and has plenty of drop-outs as well.

    I rang them and told them I was not taking them with me, and they said 'but our speed is higher than those wireless ones up there' - and it's bloody well not. They'll get one month's chance to see if the line speed is actually higher, or it's adios muchachos.

    8th May 2019
    On another angle - not sure if we 'need' priority assistance - in any emergency I'll dial the ambos etc... theoretically should have done so last night given that I was awake half the night in chest pain.. but it's not the ticker, so to hell with it...
    Tricky Dicky
    8th May 2019
    I knew an elderly lady in her 90's with all faculties except Mobile phones and the internet were beyond her comprehension AND lived alone. In fact she was still driving and visited other old people who needed company. She was told she had to go on the NBN and that was it. EXCEPT NBN DID NOT CONNECT FOR 3 WEEKS AND THUS SHE WAS WITHOUT HER VITAL LIFELINE. She did NOT understand why her phone (Now VOIP courtesy of TELSTRA NBN) would not work. so for three weeks she was without a phone. Remember she was ninety and born in the 1920's in atime of NO TV and the Wireless (Radio) was a new fangled thing. We had to try and explain to her how her phone now (did not) worked. So we tried to explain why couldn't she just have her old (rotary dialing) phone back. We were talking a unknown language to her as far as she was concerned. These are even the big companies choose to forget exist. THEY ALWAYS NEED TO BE REMEMBERED AND CONSIDERED.
    On the Ball
    8th May 2019
    See my post above... Dont tell your friend her phone wont work in a blackout, so she cant call emergency.
    And nobody suggest a UPS. Those fail more often than we get blackouts.
    I guess the powers that be are waiting for that generation to die out so there's no problem.
    On the Ball
    8th May 2019
    An aspect we must ALL be aware of is that the current rollout of the NBN is using the copper wires from the exchange to the home phones for internet and VOIP (which is the old phone used on the internet as your phone).
    Most elderly (very elderly) are not interested in the NBN and just want the phone. No problem, used the VOIP system. That leads to a far more serious problem than the one mentioned above.
    It means your home phone wont work in a blackout! The very time you NEED to call for assistance - no phone. Some medical alerts also wont work in a blackout as they use the same copper network as your phone.
    My elderly mum is in this position. She has had two phone failures since the NBN was rolled out in April (2019). She has panicked in both cases.
    So, she will have to use a mobile... Has anyone seriously researched elderly-friendly mobiles? Some are easy to use (big buttons etc) but are impossible for arthritic hands to charge! Try plugging that fiddly connector into the base of the mobile. Some have emergency buttons but screens are too small to use? But most are 3G only. That is being phased out in a few years. Will there be 4G seniors' friendly phones? Are they just selling old phones dressed as seniors phones (look at some of them - they really are rebadged old model phones). And, Mum will have to tell ALL her (also elderly) friends that she has a new number, because the mobile network doesn't allow you to keep your old home-phone number. I can see why she gets upset and asks why do we need it...
    Now IF the NBN was rolled out as planned as fibre to the home/premises, we would still have the old copper network in place. Think about it...
    Of course copper wouldn't be rolled out to new premises, but the elderly are more often than not, in a home they've been in for many years, and they already have a copper networked phone.
    8th May 2019
    There is another aspect, On the Ball, and it happened to a relative who lives on her own. She had a fall, broke her hip and couldn't move but the little red button hanging around her neck brought almost immediate help. She has a mobile and a landline but couldn't reach either one as every time she tried to move, the pain was too much for her. Surely the little red button could be improved by adapting a mobile type of phone system.

    8th May 2019
    All of the telcos are a bunch of cowboys. As I've said many times before, we need a Royal Commission into the entire sector.
    On the Ball
    8th May 2019
    Old Man wrote:
    There is another aspect, On the Ball, and it happened to a relative who lives on her own. She had a fall, broke her hip and couldn't move but the little red button hanging around her neck brought almost immediate help. She has a mobile and a landline but couldn't reach either one as every time she tried to move, the pain was too much for her. Surely the little red button could be improved by adapting a mobile type of phone system.
    Yes. There is. You can get (at a price!) a "red button" that has a simple mobile phone included. It will dial a set of numbers in turn (relatives, carers,000 etc) and give the user the capability of talking to the receiver. If the receiver doesn't press a key when answering, the device assumes it is unanswered OR an answering machine has answered, and call the next number in the queue. They are expensive, and not waterproof so not suitable for use in the shower.

    21st Jul 2019

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